NIHR research school recognises Exeter’s excellence on public and environmental health

Posted on 16th September 2021

Excellence and innovation in public and environmental health research at the University of Exeter have been recognised through membership of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) School for Public Health Research.

The partnership between England’s nine leading academic centres of excellence in public health research aims to increase the evidence base for cost-effective public health practice. Exeter’s membership specifically relates to expertise around the intrinsic environments —natural, social and in the home—that affect public health. Exeter’s membership is supported by a wide range of academics across different disciplines working on innovative world-leading research on the complex links between the environments and population health.

Membership of the NIHR school recognises the increasing profile and impact of this crucial research area, said Professor G.J. Melendez Torres, who led the bid. “From climate change to food availability to the homes we live in, and the precious resources of our natural spaces—the impacts our environments have on our health, and that we have on our environments, are critical to a healthy future. I’m delighted that Exeter’s pioneering work on a range of research fronts has been recognised by membership of this national centre, and I’m looking forward to seeing the impact, in terms of improving the health of our communities.”

Exeter’s strengths span from innovative public health trials, such as working in schools and communities to reduce obesity or improve mental health, to using big data in new ways to understand how we can improve natural environments to support our health. In addition, Exeter hosts a cutting-edge postgraduate programme, the Exeter Master of Public Health (MPH), which has quickly established a reputation as a first-in-class degree for developing leaders ready to address the most pressing public health problems. Supporting the public health workforce to develop their skills, through the Exeter MPH and through partnerships with local authorities, will be central to Exeter’s work in the School for Public Health Research.

Professor Lisa Roberts, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Exeter, said: “I’m delighted that NIHR has recognised our world-leading excellence across a wide range of disciplines in the crucial research areas around public health. We have some of the world’s best minds working together on understanding these complex interactions, and working to find new ways to improve the health of people and the planet. Extending that collaboration to England’s top institutions will help speed up progress and the benefits we desperately need. This initiative is a perfect example of how we seek to make a difference and achieve our university vision to support a sustainable, healthy and socially just future.”

Established in April 2012, the NIHR School for Public Health Research (SPHR) is a partnership between nine leading academic centres with excellence in applied public health research in England. SPHR aims to:

Conducting applied public health research to increase the volume and quality of useful evidence on cost-effective interventions

  • Conduct applied public health research to increase the volume and quality of useful evidence on cost-effective new measures.
  • Creat an environment where first-class applied public health research, focussed on the needs of the public, can thrive.
  • Support local public health practitioners and policy makers to engage with research, and actively seek out high quality research evidence to inform their decisions.
  • Contribute to ongoing efforts to build research capacity in public health research.

Professor Lucy Chappell, NIHR Chief Executive, said: “The NIHR’S investment in the School for Public Health Research has generated valuable local evidence that has informed Local Authority spending and planning to improve child health and create healthier neighbourhoods. With the new £25m, the NIHR SPHR will continue to address key challenges in public health while expanding geographic reach and ensuring research takes place where it is needed most.”

Exeter is now a member of two of three of the NIHR’s research schools. Last year Exeter became a member of the NIHR School for Primary Care Research.

Each national school is a unique collaboration between leading academic centres in England, carrying out outstanding research in their respective fields. This research can be applied across the country to meet the needs of policymakers, practitioners and the public.

The School is committed to building research capacity in public health through training and development opportunities.

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